Mapping the brain

A new system will allow radiologists to compare a patient’s brain scan with a ‘Brain Atlas’ that has been dynamically generated from hundreds of images stored around the world.

In many cases, it is difficult to precisely identify the nature of brain abnormalities simply from brain scans. However, a new system developed in the UK aims to help out.

Using the new system, dubbed the ‘Dynamic Brain Atlas’, a radiologist first captures the image of a patient’s brain using a brain scanner in the conventional way. Next, a networked computer is used to capture a ‘Brain Atlas’ showing the normal range of size and shape of brain structures for a person of the same age, gender, and past medical history.

After a few seconds, the doctor can see the patient images alongside the Brain Atlas, or, the patient images with features from the Atlas overlaid, thus enabling him to pinpoint the regions of the brain that are abnormal.

The ‘Brain Atlas’ itself is created dynamically from images of many reference subjects around the world that have similar attributes to the patient in question using a Computer Grid – a collection of world-wide distributed computing resources that can be used to store and process image data.

The ‘Dynamic Brain Atlas’ project itself was created by scientists at King’s College London, Imperial College London and Oxford University in the UK with funding from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI).